Tag Archives | Never Too Young

Lacuna Loft Provides Young Adult Cancer Resources No Matter Where You Are


Mallory Casperson - Founder and CEO

Lacuna Loft provides young adult cancer resources no matter where you are

Mallory Casperson is the CEO and founder of Lacuna Loft. A former aerospace engineer, Mallory was thrust into the cancer world after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

During our interview we discussed:

  • How her mother’s cancer diagnosis, and subsequently her own diagnosis, caused her to leave the aerospace industry and start a non-profit.
  • How Lacuna Loft began as Mallory’s blog about her experience as a young adult cancer survivor.
  • The three main challenges young adult cancer patients and survivors face; the lack of connections to people like them, the feeling of isolation and the need for validation.
  • The range of online support resources available for young adult cancer patients and survivors.

Connect With Lacuna Loft

On their website – https://lacunaloft.org/

YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCu8vPgF5kkUv4–AeqsYQgg/featured

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/lacunaloft/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/lacunaloft

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/LacunaLoft/

 

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Know someone touched by cancer who has an inspiring story?

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Her Colorectal Cancer Symptoms Were Dismissed and She’s Happy To Be Alive

Sasha DeNisova

I learned of Sasha’s story through a Faces of Blue profile from The Colon Cancer Coalition. Here’s the article:

18 months, 78 weeks, 546 days, 13104 hours, 786240 minutes. I heard him, but I didn’t really hear him. I stared into his face trying to keep composure. Eighteen months with a good quality of life was all the doctor was offering me.  I went to speak, and my voice cracked. Tears poured down my cheeks.  Eighteen months was better than the status quo, but was it really enough time? His look was that of understanding, “A good quality of life for someone so young is very important,” he proceeded.  What was quality of life? The life I had before I was sick? The one with no physical limitations? 

“Young people have a really hard time coping with colostomy. Acceptance typically comes with age,” the doctor stared me down as tears rolled down my cheeks. Hard time doesn’t even describe it.  The first couple weeks I didn’t know how I was going to make it to the next day, let alone a week, a month, a year.  Was it really better now?  I was coping better, that’s for sure. “Given your diagnosis, the immediate goal is to give you quality of life with what little time you do have.” The lump in my throat was refusing to go away.  I had so much to say, yet nothing came out.  Time suddenly became the most important thing in the world.  Time wasn’t something I had.

As if the news of my short life wasn’t devastating enough, the doctor proceeded to ramble on monotonously “The surgeon found cancer cells on your uterine wall. I want you to prepare yourself that a full hysterectomy is a real possibility.” Here I was, worried about trying to preserve my eggs during chemotherapy, while the doctor talked about taking away the possibility of having children forever as if we were reviewing menu options for Sunday brunch. Until the cancer diagnosis, I didn’t really that think that I even wanted children. Focused on my career, I’ve always thought I’d have more time to make the decision that was right for me.  The loss was so real and profound.  I felt as though I was being robbed of something from the inside out.  My aunt looked over encouragingly, “It’s not like you need those parts anyway.” Excuse me? I don’t need those parts? I was screaming inside my head. What about a possibility of having my own family? One day reading a bedtime story to my son or daughter? I was getting ahead of myself.  Who was I kidding?  Eighteen months.  That was all that was on the table.

“I want you to understand that surgery might not be successful,” the doctor continued.  This wasn’t a shock.  The latest study on HIPEC (hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy) conducted in conjunction with researchers at the University at Buffalo, University of Michigan, Mount Sinai Hospital, and the University of Toronto showed the mortality rate between 8-11% with perioperative complication rate of 27–56%.  Furthermore, the 5 year overall survival rate for colorectal adenocarcinoma was just 38.2%.  One of three makes it, plain and simple. I realized in that moment how much I wanted to live.  The surgery was a chance, a chance to have a normal life. Reconnection at the time of HIPEC meant getting rid of the dreadful bag forever.  A glimmer of a normal life was worth the risk any day of the week. I so desperately wanted some semblance of my old life back, the one without pain, constant worry, nausea, and the bag. I wanted my old wardrobe back. I wanted to go swimming. I wanted to run the Tough Mudder, the Spartan, or even the Warrior Dash. I wanted the old me back, the one who wasn’t dying.

I couldn’t help but wonder what my life would have been like if the doctors would have caught this disease on time? With no family history of cancer, I was not a candidate for a colonoscopy until the age of 50.  My last physical, I passed with flying colors. My family physician went as far as to deem me the healthiest one of his patients. Little did he know of a tumor that had setup shop in my colon and was growing every day.  The what ifs, and the could have beens plague my mind every day.

I took a deep breath and tried to think back on my life.  It has been a good one! Surrounded by friends and family, armed with a great career, I was on top of the world up until that fateful day of April 11, 2017. It was a day like any other.  Having caught a bad case of E.coli in France two weeks prior I was still recovering.  I was not 100% and have not felt like myself since returning stateside.  That morning, I woke up to find a lot of blood in my stool and immediately called my family doctor.  His nurse advised to go to urgent care.  I knew blood could mean cancer, IBD, Crohn’s or any number of other maladies, none of them good.  Numerous blood tests to check for infection and parasites came back with nothing.  The urgent care doctor collected a stool sample and promptly referred me to a gastroenterologist the following morning.

The gastroenterologist was the crude sort who looked me up and down, saw a pale girl with tattoos and losing weight, and assumed that it had to be drugs. It never occurred to him that I, a successful professional, was truly sick. My tests were squeaky clean: no parasites, no Campylobacter, no Salmonella, no Shigella, no Vibrio, no Yersinia, no Shiga Toxin, no Norovirus, or Rotavirus. He scratched his head, gave me a quizzical look, gazed deeply into my eyes and told me: “You have all the symptoms of a chronic pot smoker, just admit that you are on drugs.”  I haven’t smoked pot a day in my life and did not condone drug use on any level.  His statement was offensive.  Furthermore, I was pretty sure I actually knew chronic pot smokers, and none of them exhibited my symptoms. He proceeded to tell me that a liquid diet will cure me and sent me home to wait for a sigmoidoscopy the following Friday.

The pains started sharp and debilitating. It felt as though someone was stabbing me in the stomach repeatedly.  The sigmoidoscopy showed nothing.  The gastroenterologist informed me that results of the biopsy will be mailed to me in about a week’s time or so and to keep not eating.  Outside of my blatant “drug use” there was nothing wrong me. When I protested informing the doctor that by the end of the following week would be almost two weeks since I’ve eaten, he laughed and told me: “If I could go three weeks without eating in college on a bet, you can last two weeks.”

By Monday, I was in so much pain I was not able to function. I haven’t slept since the previous Friday and found solace in calling the nurses’ line repeatedly to see if the results of the biopsy were in. By mid-day Tuesday a very annoyed nurse told me that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me and to please stop calling. The gastroenterologist was kind enough to refer me to a colorectal surgeon to appease me but the first appointment wasn’t for another week and a half.  I didn’t know what to do.  Every minute I was getting worse and could no longer make it up and down the stairs of my house relying on my neighbor to let my dog out.

 

To my relief, the voice on the phone informed me that the surgeon could see me first thing Friday morning. The doctor’s face was cold and grim, “You are obviously very sick.  What I don’t understand is how you ended up in my office with no diagnosis.” For the next fifteen minutes he went over the possibilities of what could be wrong with me (none of them cancer) and promptly sent me in for a CT scan.  Not even twenty minutes after leaving the hospital, a worried voice on the other line advised me to return to the hospital since I needed to be admitted immediately.  I was informed that a large abscess about an inch higher than the reach of the sigmoidoscopy was found, and the doctors needed to insert a drainage tube. Diagnosis: infection brought on by E.coli due to diverticulitis. I was pretty sure that only the elderly actually got the disease, but who was I to argue?  Four days in the hospital later, I was released with a drainage tube which came out just two short weeks later.

Unfortunately, I was worse.  The pain was back and excruciating. I had mucosal discharge from the hole left by the drainage tube, and the stabbing pain in my abdomen was worse than ever.  I called the doctor who informed me that discomfort and discharge was normal, and that I should wait for my follow-up appointment. By the weekend I was so sick that I could not get up.  I called my parents for a lift to the ER since there was no way I could wait until Tuesday (my follow-up appointment).  The CT scan revealed the abscess was worse with a breach in the colon wall meaning stool was circulating through my system. Admitted once more, I was pumped full of antibiotics and pain killers. Nothing was working, I was getting worse by the hour. Almost a week later, the infectious disease doctor insisted that I needed surgery, and that we weren’t dealing with a simple infection. No one listened since my surgeon was out of town at a conference and his partner refused to perform the surgery.  He would later tell me that he wasn’t confident that I was going to pull through if he were to operate. It would be over a week until my surgery.  Days were filled with enemas that resulted in complete blockage and stool pouring out of the now gaping hole in the middle of my butt cheek left by the drainage tube.

I was groggy from the surgery. My body hurt everywhere. The overly chipper resident strolled into the room giving me the biggest smile, “High Five!” He reached out his hand. “Someone is still with us! No one thought you were going to pull through last night.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or be angry. I died on that operating table, and by the sheer grace of God and the skilled hands of the surgeons I was still here.  My colon burst as they were prepping me for the surgery flooding my system and my bloodstream with stool and infection.  I went septic, then critical, then flat lined, as my surgeon was removing tumors, affected organs, and attempting to suck out the toxins killing me.  Against all odds, I pulled through. Not even the doctors expected me to make it.

I looked around the room and saw my dad curled up and sleeping in a chair in the corner. Then, I looked down at my stomach, it was red and swollen sporting a colostomy bag on the left hand side, a zipper of staples going from my groin to my bellybutton, and a drain full of bloody mucus. I took a deep breath.  I was grateful to be alive.  It wasn’t my time to go.  The surgery took twenty one cm of my colon, my appendix, part of my rectum, the tumor that burst (the abscess turned out to be a burst tumor), and another measuring 6.5 x 6 x 2.5 cm.

The pathology report came back exactly a week after my surgery. My surgeon woke me up at 11 p.m. and told me that the tumors were cancerous, and he was not sure that he got all the cancer. The tumor breached my colon and there was lymph node involvement. He face showed genuine concern.  He looked at me with fatherly care and told me that it wasn’t fair for someone so young to be so sick.  He was sending me to an oncologist at the University of Minnesota who specializes in HIPEC to give me a fighting chance since there was nothing more he could do for me.

I met with the hospital oncologist the day before being released from the hospital. I spent the last nine agonizing days waiting for my insides to start functioning and getting used to the new normal. A young woman, like myself, the oncologist looked at me with her big eyes full of pity.  She informed me that I had stage IIIb adenocarcinoma of the sigmoid colon meaning that the cancer has breached my colon, one lymph node was affected. She advised me that chemo was very effective at this stage, and that her recommendation was to start as soon as possible, four weeks post-surgery.  I wasn’t a candidate for radiation (a radiation specialist would later confirm this fact) due to location of the tumor. There was a good chance that radiation would liquefy my bladder, causing more harm than good.  The young doctor wanted me to know that there was a chance that chemo would leave me sterile (with radiation there is no chance of not becoming sterile, but with chemo there is a chance that your reproductive organs will still function post treatment).  She recommended Depo-Provera since it puts your reproductive organs into a state of sleep as the best chance to attempt to fight becoming sterile.  Furthermore, she referred me to a fertility clinic.

I called the fertility clinic the moment I was released from the hospital, hoping for medication to offset the effects of chemo, or at least an in person consultation. The woman on the phone informed me that my only option was freezing my eggs.  The cost was $10,000.  No consultation prior to the procedure was available and you needed to prepay to be seen. I would need to start the process on Friday that week because the procedure would not be possible once chemo started. I inquired if there were financing options, payments plan, anything that would enable me to pay the amount over a period of time. Unless I wanted to access my 401K plan taking the tax penalty, I didn’t have $10,000 laying around anywhere nor did I have enough if I emptied both my savings and my checking accounts. To my chagrin, no financing options were available. Furthermore, no help of any kind was available anywhere. The woman was sorry that I had cancer, but informed me that typically people save for years for the procedure and inquired on why I haven’t done the same. I wanted to scream!  I didn’t chose to get sick, and that it wasn’t fair that the choice to have children was being stolen from me by the disease. I would have gladly put the money aside if I had a magic 8-ball that could have shown me the future. I hung up the phone. I had 2 days to come up with $6400 (cost of walking through the door, the other $3600 was due at the end of two week period).  My financial advisor informed me that I would need at least 3 days to receive funds from my 401K plan. Furthermore, the 40% viability rate of frozen eggs didn’t inspire any confidence especially given the fact that percentage plummeted once you introduced fertilization. In the end, I chose to give up.  $10,000 wasn’t magically going to show up in mere 48 hours no matter how I looked at it.  Devastated, I decided to take my chances with Depo-Provera.  What choice did I have? At the end of the day, I had to admit to myself that I needed every penny I had as I stared down the pile of medical bills with more to come as I continue my fight. How many young women were in the same situation?  How many sat there and cried as their chance to have children was being stolen from them?

This is not the end of my story, but just the beginning. Tomorrow is a newer brighter day as the medical community continues to make daily advances. My time isn’t up just yet. I’m going to fight for another day, even if it is for 19 months, 82 weeks, 576 days, 13824 hours, or 929440 minutes because it is my time and I will not waste any more of it on being sick.  I will run my Tough Mudder, purchase my dream home, and just live.  Today, I refuse to let cancer define me and will continue to fight for others like me to get screened so they never are faced with their own eighteen months.

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What Can Cancer Do To Your Marriage?

What Can Cancer Do To Your Marriage? Sarah DeBord

What Can Cancer Do To Your Marriage? Sarah DeBord

Like so many young Colon Cancer Survivors, Sarah DeBord was told her symptoms were “probably hemorrhoids.” Several years later she was diagnosed with Stage 3 Colon Cancer. Having recently completed her 125th round of chemotherapy, Sarah says her disease is stable.

During our conversation we discussed:

  • Her work with the Colon Cancer Coalition
  • The Colon Club and her experience spending a weekend with fellow survivors.
  • The important role exercise plays in her physical and emotional health.
  • The effect her diagnosis had on her marriage.

Links mentioned in this  interview:

Sarah’s Blog – ColonCancerChick.com

The Colon Cancer Coalition

Get Your Rear In Gear Run/Walk Event

Tour de Tush

Caboose Cup

On The Rise

Psychology Today – “The New Survivors.”

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Tabitha Cavanagh Finds Her Healing Through Helping Others

Tabitha Cavanaugh Finds Her Healing Through Helping Others

Tabitha Cavanagh Finds Her Healing Through Helping Others

Tabitha Cavanagh was diagnosed with Stage III Colon Cancer in January of 2017. She was 31 years old and had a little girl and had just gotten married.

Tabitha completed chemotherapy in July of 2017 and immediately plunged herself into exercise as a way to heal her mind and body. On her Facebook page, Grit to Greatness, she tells her story:

My new beginning all started in January 2017 when I was unexpectedly diagnosed with colon cancer at the young age of 31. I knew, in that moment, my life would never be the same.

Out of nowhere, cancer chose me. I most certainly did not choose it. I was a new mom & newly married. Cancer didn’t care. What I did choose was positivity. I CHOSE to see it as a blessing! I realized, sometimes, beautiful things can blossom in the most unlikely places.

My cancer journey has proven to be the best & worst thing that has ever happened to me. I learned that by creating a stronger mindset, I could get through anything. In finding my GRIT, I discovered my GREAT.

We don’t always get to choose what happens to us. We CAN, however, choose what we do with it.

GRIT TO GREATNESS is designed to be a space where you can come to be inspired to find your GRIT and, ultimately, find your GREAT. All you need to do is show up! Maybe, just maybe, this is where it all begins.

GRIT is about persisting despite your circumstances. GRIT is rising up, facing your mountain and climbing it … GRIT means investing in yourself.

I promise, just on the other side of your GRIT is your GREAT.

…and this, my friends, is how Grit to Greatness was born.

Let’s journey together!

Xoxo,

Tabitha

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Stephen Estrada Is The Coach of His Colorectal Cancer Treatment Team

Stephen Estrada Is The Coach of His Colorectal Cancer Treatment Team

Stephen Estrada Is The Coach of His Colorectal Cancer Treatment Team

Just over two years ago, when I was 28, I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. To say I knew nothing about cancer at that point in my life would be a gross understatement. In fact, finding out there was no stage 5 was a huge shock all on its own! How could I, an otherwise healthy 28 year old man who who exercised and ate well have end stage cancer? The answer to that came in the form of a simple blood draw. Along with my cancer diagnoses, I was also told I had a genetic condition called Lynch Syndrome. Lynch syndrome meant that I had some messed up genes that had no way to repair themselves. Because of this, I was a ticking time bomb just waiting to get cancer. In general, lynch syndrome takes away the fear of “I wonder if I will ever get cancer?” And replaces it with the fear of “WHEN will I get cancer?” The answer to that, for me, was apparently at the age of 28!

So there I was, young and in serious danger of dying quickly. I was rushed into emergency surgery to remove a large part of my colon along with the primary tumor. During the surgery, it was confirmed that the tumor not only broke through the colon wall, but had spread to my mesentery…an unlikely and dangerous place to spread. My prognosis was so grim, my surgeon out a letter on my door instructing nurses and visitors NOT to discuss my diagnoses with me.

After I recovered from my surgery, I went through six months of aggressive chemo. At the end of those six months my mesenteric tumor shrank enough to make me a candidate for something called a NanoKnife procedure. NanoKnife was explained to me as a fairly new procedure used only when tumor’s are in highly sensitive and dangerous areas. Rods would be inserted into my tumor and electromagnetic waves would be pumped through the rods. This would cause microscopic holes in the tumor’s cell, causing them to leak out all their contents, thus killing the tumor and giving me approximately 2 years of being cancer free. I understood this was not a cure, it was merely a way of treading water until another plan could be formed. I signed off on NanoKnife and my unconventional fight with cancer truly started.

The NanoKnife procedure quickly turned complicated. Once inside of me, my surgeon realized the tumor attached itself t my small intestine and gallbladder. What was supposed to be a frying of the tumor, quickly turned into something much more. I underwent a gallbladder removal, a small intestine and mesenteric resection, a stomach bypass, and an intestinal rerouting. I was told everything went beautifully and I should be cancer free. I was sent home to recovery in peace after about a week in the hospital.

Now, anyone who knows me well, knows that when I do something, I go all out. So, not only did a NOT recover peacefully, instead I started to bleed internally. An ambulance had to be called to my home in a horrible blizzard where they found me, pale, weak, and with barely a pulse. I was rushed to a local hospital where I received 8 blood transfusions in an effort to stabilize me. This resulted in a week long stay in ICU where I suffered from seizures due to a lack of blood. At this point, I was more than sure I would never leave the hospital alive.

Somehow, I made it out. I was supposed to start maintenance chemo once I was strong enough…but my quick brush with death made me reconsider everything I was being edged to know more about what was happening to me. I was so tired of not knowing anything about my cancer other than what my oncologist was briefly telling me. So I read. I read a lot. It is so important for those of us with cancer to not be afraid of information. The more we know, the more we can have an informed discussion with our team of doctors. I truly believe that the more we know about our cancer, the more doors open for us.

Self advocacy will get you far in the cancer world, through my research, I found that the maintenance chemo my oncologist wanted me on was not beneficial to those of us with lynch syndrome. In fact, the drug had been noted as detrimental in some cases. Shouldn’t my oncologist have known this? Probably. But she was my ONE oncologist…I was one of possible HUNDREDS of patients to her. How could I expect her to know all the nuances of colon cancer when she treats every cancer, every day? I knew at that moment I needed an oncologist who not only specialized in colon cancer, but lynch syndrome as well. I was o angry that my oncologist didn’t have the knowledge I thought she should have…but now I realized she was doing her best and I couldn’t rely on ANY doctor to have ALL the answers. Doctors are wonderful people, but I had to remember that they are still human. Humans with immense pressure placed on them on a day to day basis. It was then that I made the decision to learn as much as I could about lynch syndrome and MY colon cancer. I wanted to bring more to the table during appointments, I wanted to ask questions and learn, I wanted to save my own life.

My research led me to the university of Colorado, where my current oncologist, Dr. Wells Messersmith works. I met him after my NanoKnife procedure and filled him in on what was happening with me. At this point, two months after NanoKnife, I was assumed cancer free. Unfortunately, one morning, I woke up to a familiar and excruciating pain where the tumor was. A quick CT scan confirmed what I already knew: NanoKnife, my unconventional answer to the cancer trying to kill me…the procedure that was being hailed as an incredible weapon against cancer…the surgery that almost took my life…was a total and utter failure. That tumor was pissed and growing.

Little did I know that this was possibly the biggest blessing I could have asked for. Because the tumor was alive, well, and measurable, Dr. Messersmith suggest I quickly enter a phase one clinical trial with something called “immunotherapy.” A very quick google search unearthed a massive amount of articles calling immunotherapy the biggest medical breakthrough since antibiotics. I wanted in.

Once I started the immunotherapy trial, I knew something strange and good was happening inside my body. The drug, Atezolizumab, was incredibly easy to tolerate and within weeks…WEEKS…I felt well. My pain and fatigue were replaced with strength and hope. I went from a tiny 110 pounds to 130 pounds in roughly a month and a half. Whatever was happening on my inside was manifesting itself on the outside. The drug removed the blinders on my immune system that cancer had placed on it and my cancer was the number one target. And now, a year later, here I stand: healthy, alive, active, and well. My tumor is still shrinking and I live my life with cancer as an after thought.

Had I not done my own research…had I not had the courage to seek out another oncologist…I would most certainly not be alive today. So I encourage all of those with cancer to truly take the reigns and be your own life saver. Don’t wait until it’s too late to start looking at trials…please….look NOW. Save the trial number, print off the trial description, and take that information to your oncologist. Do not wait for the to present something to you….they are so busy that things fall through the cracks all the time. During these last two years I have noticed that those who do the best and live the longest tend to be those who are well informed and active in their treatment planning.

I often tell newly diagnosed patients that they are the coach of their cancer care team. Your oncologist is the quarterback, but it is up to YOU to run the team. So you have to step up and play your own role in order to win this game. You will hear a lot of “no’s” as you present information to your team…but for every 20 “no’s” there will be at least one “yes.” And sometimes, all you need is that ONE YES.

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Dealing With Cancer After Treatment Ends, With Dawn Eicher

Dawn Eicher

Dealing With Cancer After Treatment Ends, With Dawn Eicher

Dawn Eicher was the first young survivor interview for The Colon Cancer Podcast, back in March of 2015. Now 2 years N.E.D. (No Evidence of Disease), she returns for a second stint on the show to talk about life post-treatment.

In this interview, Dawn and I discuss the unique challenges that survivors face after treatment ends, both physical and emotional. We talk about survivor’s guilt, P.T.S.D. and how to face the “new normal.”

DKE_5750-1-5

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Never Too Young for Colorectal Cancer, With Courtney Forget

Courtney Forget

Never Too Young for Colorectal Cancer, With Courtney Forget

Courtney Forget had digestive issues for about a year, but was busy planning a wedding to the love of her life, trying to buy their first home, and teaching art to elementary school students (K-5), so she just assumed her symptoms were due to stress. She went to her GP in September of 2014, and they wrote her off and said to eat a healthier diet.  Fast forward to the first week of the 2015 summer break and she’d been having severe abdominal pain and sleeping 80% of the day! She knew something wasn’t right and called and demanded a colonoscopy. After her visit, she was diagnosed with Stage 3c colorectal cancer. Married in October, bought her first house in May, and diagnosed with cancer in July. She was 29 years old.

Thankfully she was set up with amazing doctors at the Cancer Center In Gainesville, VA. She’s been on six weeks of chemo and radiation, she had her tumor removed and an ileostomy bag put in, and then chemo every other week for six months. She has two treatments left, and her ileostomy take down surgery in August, and life is looking pretty great! She started #CrayonsForChildrens, a program where people donate old and broken crayons and she melts them down into fun new shapes and donates the new and improved crayons to Children’s Hospital in DC and Falls Church. She had to take a year off from teaching to get better and She’s excited to return to the classroom this fall!  She also plans to volunteer at Children’s Hospital to work with young patients and will read stories to them and create art projects with them to brighten their day.

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Diagnosed With Colorectal Cancer at 28, With Kevin Hays

evin Hays

Diagnosed With Colon Cancer at 28, With Kevin Hays

Kevin Hays was diagnosed with Stage IIc colon cancer at age 28.  He went through surgery and chemo.  After finishing chemo he ran in the Buffalo Undy Run to boost awareness and afterwards volunteered to help with organizing for the the next year (this year!).  Working through the Buffalo Undy Run | Walk planning he helped resurrect the Blue Bash in Buffalo to broaden our reach with a new audience.  He also developed a new awareness initiative targeting the construction and real estate development industries called the Blue Hope Hard Hat Initiative (#protectyourass) as a way to help promote the 80% by 2018 initiative. To raise awareness, hundreds of construction workers and site managers in the Buffalo area are sporting the blue hard hats emblazoned with a comical, but serious message: “Protect Your Ass.” Since early January, he’s sold 600 of the blue hard hats at cost, about $10 apiece, with a goal of helping to boost colorectal screening rates.

To learn more about the Blue Hope Hard Hat initiative and to order your very own Blue Hard Hat, visit:

protectyourass.net

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Never Too Young For Colorectal Cancer, With Sandi Stupica

Never Too Young For Colorectal Cancer, With Sandi Stupica

Never Too Young For Colorectal Cancer, With Sandi Stupica

My name is Sandi Stupica and I live in Ypsilanti, MI. This is my sixth year as a high school English teacher at Ypsilanti New Tech. Well, kind of my sixth year. I have been out on long-term disability since September to recover from my two surgeries: the surgery to remove the tumor and, therefore, get the ostomy; and the surgery to remove the ostomy and get the j-pouch. It seems that the surgeries have been successful and I’m feeling much better now! I return to work on April 12trh. Woot!

My Diagnosis
My first year of teaching was in rural, middle-of-the-state Okeechobee, FL. I grew up in Michigan so I wanted to try and find a job in my home state for my second year of teaching. Even though I came back to Michigan, I met some great people in Chobee and stayed in contact via Facebook. In November of 2014, Jason, who was a 32-year-old teacher in Florida, posted that he was diagnosed with Stage 1 colorectal cancer (Later, he would find out that he actually had stage 3). He posted some of the symptoms and why he went to the doctor. I had been feeling discomfort like he had, but I thought I had a lactose intolerance or gluten intolerance. Until 2015, I had no signs of rectal bleeding. To be safe, I reached out to him, as well as doctors. Luckily, my doctor recommended a colonoscopy. I had over forty polyps, and a two-inch tumor closer to my rectum. I had stage 3 colorectal cancer at 29-years-old.
Major Milestones
Having colorectal cancer is a battle. But, I also took on the battle of fertility preservation just in case my reproductive system reacted harshly to the chemotherapy. I decided to not have radiation to increase my chances of fertility in the future. My milestones to colorectal survival are the following: fertility preservation, chemotherapy (with oxaliplatin, leucovorin, and Fulfox5), surgery to remove the tumor and get the ostomy, and the final surgery of the J Pouch. I worked through the fertility preservation and chemotherapy.
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